Creative Law Network

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Client Spotlight: The Burroughs
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Steeped in classic soul standards and outfitted with modern flair, The Burroughs are a nine piece band with a powerhouse sound that has been electrifying audiences across Colorado and beyond. Since 2013, the band has lit up stages with their trademark brand of “Sweaty Soul Music,” quickly earning their rightful place as one of the best live bands in the region.

No newcomer to uplifting spirits, Johnny Burroughs works as a licensed minister and music pastor. His church upbringing serves him well on stage, where the red-headed frontman sings, dances, and screams audiences into a revival-like frenzy. His dynamite backing band includes a sizzling 4 piece horn section and tight 4 piece rhythm section that are as versatile as they are fun to watch. The band’s live performances are capped by choreographed dancing, soaring solos, and funky grooves, with the goal of moving the audience to a joyful celebration by each show’s closing tune.

In July of 2019, The Burroughs released a pair of singles, "The Slip" and "Forever In Love," with Denver-based label and artist collective Color Red. 303 Magazine called the release "a funk-focused, witty complimentary pair of tracks that are like nothing you’ve ever heard in decades." The new music marks a season of growth for the band, as they continue a trajectory towards bigger stages and audiences. The band has performed at festivals and venues including Salmonfest Alaska, Bohemian Nights New West Fest, Denver's Underground Music Showcase, and the Mishawaka. They have opened for acts including The Motet, The Steve Miller Band, Keller Williams, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and The Main Squeeze.

Don’t forget to catch some live Sweaty Soul Music all over Colorado this month!

Check out their website for show dates and tickets!

Dave Ratner
What is a Trademark?

Next up on our Intellectual Property mini series: Trademarks!

Trademark protection is an extremely important part of creating your brand, and we can help!

Contact Us and let’s talk about your trademark needs!

Dave Ratner
DIY Contracts: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should

Contracts. You can’t escape them. They’re a part of our daily lives, and they provide the legal framework for all of our business interactions. This is especially true in creative fields, where ownership and creative control over the things you create is priceless. Contracts can make or break you when it comes to business relationships and protecting the things you poured your heart and soul into creating.

But, contracts can also be expensive and confusing. It may be tempting to find cheap and easy substitutes for a professionally tailored contract and create one on your own from the Internet. The Internet is great, don’t get me wrong, and it has endless information and resources. However, it can be like drinking from a firehose - endless information, no filter. There are countless websites offering DIY contract templates, as well as countless examples of contracts for all kinds of scenarios.

So, what’s wrong with creating a contract from these examples? While they may seem thorough enough, DIY contracts often don’t offer the specific protections YOU need. Those who go it alone without benefit of a tailored contract can run into a number of critical issues – if not immediately, then somewhere down the road.

Like fingerprints

Not all situations are the same. This is especially true in the creative industries. Your situation is unique, just like your talent, so your contract should reflect that. Infrequently will you find an Internet-template contract that perfectly addresses and encompasses your services or your situation. A skilled entertainment lawyer can accurately assess the risks and rewards of a well-crafted contract to create a document that reflects your needs as an individual or business. While it may incur additional costs upfront, the savings from having to defend your best interests down the road can be priceless.

Differing Law

In addition to Federal laws, each state has its own set of laws, regulations and judicial interpretations. These laws and regulations are constantly changing and evolving – and no DIY contract can keep up with shifting requirements. Contract clauses that are relevant in one state may not be relevant in another. In fact, the inclusion of some clauses can completely invalidate a contract in certain states where an unenforceable clause invalidates the entire agreement. This can be an important issue in the creative and music industries where many of the contracts you can find online will be from the few states where these industries flourish, namely California and New York. Things that may be relevant in California and New York, may not be relevant in your state. 

What needs to be here?

Contracts are designed to address your specific and certain needs. But what are those needs and how should they should be protected?

The problem with DIY templates or patchwork contracts blending examples found online is they often include items that don’t need to be there. Or they leave out items crucial to you. They are designed for the masses, resulting in a vague agreement that lacks customized language for your specific needs. Contract language can be complex and it often takes a trained eye to determine when something needs to be said or when something doesn’t work to your advantage. It’s also important to ensure that clauses put together from other agreements don’t contradict or invalidate each other.

The devil is in the details in the legal world and even the smallest omission or contradiction can invalidate an entire document. An entertainment lawyer practiced in the creative industries will understand your needs and how they relate to the law – the where, why, and how you need to be protected from future headaches. A custom contract ensures you receive all of the rights and protections you need without extra language that can confuse or invalidate your contract. 

Crystal Ball

A contract needs to clearly articulate the present transaction or situation, but it does so much more. Here are a few examples of what a good contract should do:

  •  Explain how you get paid;

  • Handles the situation if one party doesn’t follow through on their responsibilities;

  • Protects you against liability in circumstances beyond your control;

  • Clearly dictates ownership and usage rights of your creative intellectual property.

As lawyers, it’s our job to look to the future and imagine all of the possible scenarios in order to plan and minimize your risk and maximize your gain. A sound contract takes into account all of the possible risks you could face - no matter how slight - and provides protection against those perils.

Cost

While a professionally drafted contract may seem more expensive on first glance, we view it as an investment in your financial and business future. The cost of a properly drafted agreement pales in comparison to the cost of a lawsuit arising from a poorly drafted one. A properly drafted contract protects you as you grow and prosper. A lawsuit, of any size, can quickly destroy your business with the time and expense drag it brings. Protection down the line is always worth the initial price.

What language is this?

Contracts are, unfortunately, often written in so-called “legalese.” Legalese is a language all its own and can be confusing to, well, virtually anyone. Just like writing in any other language, you can find yourself in legal hot water if you don’t know exactly what you’re writing. While we avoid legalese as much as we can, we understand the balance between it and plain English needed to build a solid and defensible contract.

Brevity is the soul of wit

Many DIY contracts throw a thesaurus at a wall and see what sticks. So often, we see thousands of words that say very little when a few words could speak volumes. How often have you been confronted with a contract that would put War and Peace to shame? No one wants to drag their way through 20 pages of dense legal language when all they want is to get the deal done. More is not always better when it comes to protecting creative assets. Clear and concise language not only protects you and your business, it makes for a document that won’t hinder the completion of a sound business arrangement.

If you’ve been weighing the pros and cons of a DIY contract or one more specifically tailored to your needs, give us a buzz. We can walk you through the necessary steps, explain the process, evaluate your existing contracts, and build an agreement that provides you all the necessary protections you need to thrive.

Better still, beyond just a contract, you’ll receive a relationship with attorneys that understand your talents, your goals, your potential obstacles, and future rewards. You can count on Creative Law Network to always stand in your corner.

Email us or call us at 720-924-6529

Dave Ratner
Creative Law Network is at Denver Startup Week!

Join us at 2 awesome Startup Week events tomorrow:

Anatomy of a Contract

Tuesday, September 17th - 8am - 9:30am at Healthgrades Operating Company Inc.

Contracts are notorious for being written in an obscure language, otherwise known as “legalese.” However, contracts are the backbone of a business and can truly make or break your success as a startup. Whether you're signing a contract or delivering one for your company, there are some common components that every startup business should be looking for and know how to decipher. We will dissect the basic elements of a few standard types of contracts so you can be better informed and protected in your business.

Speed Legal: Starting, Growing, and Funding Your Business

Tuesday, September 17th - 12pm - 1:30pm at the Jake Jabbs Center at CU Denver (5th Floor Laube Commons)

Founders face pivotal decisions in the early stage, from initial incorporation to HR, stock options, and IP strategies. Then, there’s funding, growth, and exit. The pitfalls are perilous if sound decisions don’t start at the beginning. No matter where you are in the startup journey, this program has something for you. In an interactive 90 minutes, attendees can select specific tracks. Need IP help? Join the rapid-fire roundtables on patent strategies and IP protection. Looking to make the first hires? Evaluating funders? Dedicated roundtables will be set up to address all key startup legal issues. In small groups, you’ll learn from experts and peers in a dynamic learning environment.

Find out more information about these and other events at Denverstartupweek.org

Dave Ratner
Client Spotlight: Dio Mio - Handmade Pasta
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Dio Mio (dee-OH mee-OH)

As in “My God! This pasta is good!”

Dio Mio is a counter-service restaurant focusing on fresh, handmade pasta. Chefs Spencer White and Alex Figura use their fine dining backgrounds to craft a mix of traditional Italian, and contemporary food in a relaxed and approachable environment. At the center of their 1500 square foot restaurant, is the pasta-production table, the heart of what they do. Sourcing is important to them; often locally, sometimes nationally, always seasonally.

Creative Law Network is proud to represent Dio Mio!

Visit their restaurant at 3264 Larimer Street in Denver and learn more about them here

Find their menus here

Dave Ratner
What Are We Up To This Week?

Join us for 2 awesome events this week!

The Law of Street Art: Copyright Protections and Other Issues to Consider.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019 from 5pm - 7pm at Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse

RSVP: HERE

Denver’s vibrant neighborhoods are alive with street murals. These large-format, art projects are beautiful, but they belie a number of important legal issues, including copyright, property ownership, use of street murals in other artistic or commercial depictions of street murals, and artists' moral rights in their expressions.

As part of CRUSH WALLS 2019 , Zach Warkentin of Warkentin LLC and our own Dave Ratner of Creative Law Network will present on fundamental copyright and other legal issues for street muralists and street art. This event is presented in coordination with the Colorado Bar Association's Sports and Entertainment Section and RiNo Art District.

Art + Law Crested Butte

Friday, September 6, 2019 from 10am - 4pm at The Depot

RSVP: HERE

The morning will feature a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) presentation for attorneys. Attendees can earn two CLE credits and learn how they can apply their legal practice to support the creative industries in Colorado.

The afternoon session will focus on navigating common legal issues that creative professionals and entities encounter. This interactive workshop will focus on the basics of intellectual property law, common questions regarding contracts and various business entities for creative endeavors.

This arts-infused, legal education day will include a delicious lunch, networking and connections to the vibrant creative community in Crested Butte — plus a happy hour with live music!

Dave Ratner
Legal Issues in Theatre - Tonight!

Join Dave Ratner, Colorado Attorneys for the Arts, and The Colorado Theatre Guild TONIGHT from 6:30 - 8:30 at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center at the JCC to learn more about the legal issues in theatre. Dave will cover a variety of topics such as the anatomy of a contract, copyright, trademark, licensing and more! Bring your questions and we’ll see you there!

This presentation is free for Colorado Theatre Guild members and $10.00 Non-Members

Click Here to learn more and

Dave Ratner
FUCT Trademark Registration

On June 24, 2019, in Iancu v. Brunetti, fashion designer Erik Brunetti appealed a decision by the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) denying his application to federally register the trademark “FUCT.” The PTO had previously denied the trademark application under a provision of trademark law that prohibits registration of “immoral or scandalous” trademarks. However, in a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled in Brunetti’s favor, finding that the “immoral or scandalous” prohibition violates the First Amendment.

Brunetti founded a clothing line using the trademark FUCT, pronounced one letter after the other: F-U-C-T. But read differently, it’s pretty clear what it sounds like, or as the PTO so eloquently described it; “the equivalent of [the] past participle form of a well-known word of profanity.”

The PTO determined that FUCT was vulgar and, therefore, unregistrable. On review, the PTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed, declaring the trademark to be “highly offensive” and “vulgar” and noting the “negative sexual connotations.” Brunetti responded by arguing that the “immoral or scandalous” bar on trademarks violates the First Amendment.

In evaluating Brunetti’s challenge, the Supreme Court considered its decision just two terms earlier in Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744 (2017), in which the Court declared a ban on registering “disparaging” trademarks unconstitutional. In Matal v. Tam, an all- Asian American rock band called “The Slants” brought suit when they were denied a trademark for their band name as racially disparaging. The Court explained that in Tam, it had reached two conclusions: (1) if a trademark registration bar is viewpoint-based, it is unconstitutional, and (2) the disparagement bar was viewpoint-based. That is, “the government may not discriminate against speech based on the ideas or opinions it conveys.”

 In determining whether the “immoral and scandalous” bar is viewpoint-based, the Court went straight to the dictionary, defining the terms as being inconsistent with “good morals” or “giving offense to the conscience or moral feelings,” respectively. The Court recounted previous PTO registration decisions, in which the PTO refused to register marks communicating “immoral” or “scandalous” views about drug use, religion, and terrorism. Yet, the PTO approved registration of trademarks expressing more accepted views on the same topics, such as religious based brands. Thus, the Court determined that “the facial viewpoint bias in the law results in viewpoint-discriminatory application.” As such, the “immoral or scandalous bar” violated the First Amendment.

So what does this all mean? In a nutshell, this decision is likely to allow registration of a wider selection of trademarks. Words and marks previously thought too scandalous or vulgar for registration may now be granted protection under the First Amendment. The Court determined that it is not the place of the PTO, and the inherently biased examiners, to determine whether a mark is moral or not. The door is now open for a new broad variety of trademarks. Now is the time to register your trademark if you thought it might be refused as immoral or scandalous. The trademark lawyers at Creative Law Network would love to talk to you about this new change and how we can help you register a trademark, scandalous or not!

Dave Ratner